Monday, April 21, 2008

Isn't there a quick and easy way to learn Korean?

NO, there is no quick and easy way to learn the Korean language, but if you want a "quick and easy" introduction to the language with links to listening and pronunciation practice all on one Web page, then try the following site:

"Let's Learn Korean"

Also, Yahoo! has set up an English-language portal page targeting foreigners in Korea:

"Inside Korea"

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Does "생전 처음 봤다" make sense?

There are many Korean expressions that seem odd to me, and the following expression is near the top of the list.

생전 처음 봤다
"It is the first time in my life to see that."

For some reason, in Korean, 생전 (生前) means "during [one's] life," which seems strange since 生 means "life" and 前 means "in front of" or "before." Why doesn't is mean "before one is born"?

If I were in charge of the Korean language, I would change 생전 처음 봤다 to 생후 처음 봤다 since "생후" (生後) means "after birth" or "since birth." Doesn't it make more sense?
  • 生 (생) - life; birth
  • 前 (전) - in front of; before
  • 後 (후) - behind; after

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

2008 - General questions or comments about the Korean language

I have started this post to give people an opportunity to use the "Comments" section to ask questions, share information, or make general comments about the Korean language. Feel free to ask or share what you will.

What does "世俗之人 皆善人之同乎己" mean?

Today, I came across the following Chinese expression, which I do not completely understand.

世俗之人 皆善人之同乎
세속지인 개선인지동호

세상의 사람들은 모두가 다른 사람이 자기의 같은 것을 좋아 한다.

All people in the world like people who are similar to themselves.

I think I understand most parts of the above expression, but I do not understand the function of 乎 . Here is what I understand:

  • 世俗之人 - the people of the world
  • 皆 - all
  • 善 - like
  • 人之同 - people who are similar
  • 乎 - to (Thanks, Taemin. See "comments" section.)
  • 己 - themselves

Can someone explain to me the grammar of 人之同乎己?


Taemin has explained to me that 乎 means "to" in the above expression, so 人之同乎己 means "people who are similar to themselves." Therefore, 同乎 (동호) could be generally translated as "similar to." The opposite meaning would be 異乎 (이호), which could be translated as "different from." The following is a sentence that uses 異乎 (이호) from King Sejong's "Hunmin Jeong-eum" (訓民正音).

國之語音 異乎中國 與文字 不相流通
국지어음 이호중국 여문자 불상유통

나라의 말 소리가 중국 달라서 문자와 더불어 서로 통하지 못하다.

The sound of our language is different from China's, so the writing, as well, cannot correspond with each other.

  • 國之語音 - The sound of our language
  • 異乎 - is different from
  • 中國 - China's
  • 與 - likewise
  • 文字 - the writing
  • 不 - cannot
  • 相 - each other
  • 流通 - correspond

Many people may be interested in learning Korean, but not really interested in learning old Chinese sayings; however, here are a few modern examples of the 동 (同) and 이 (異) characters being used in speech today:
  • 이동(異同)이 없다. - There is no difference.
    Notice that the characters for "different" (異) and "same" (同) combine to form a word that means "difference." I do not know why "different" wins out over "same," but it does. By the way, it does not matter if 동 (同) comes before 이 (異), as in 동이, it still means "difference."
  • 이국(異國) - a foreign country; a strange land
  • 이국(異國)적인 - exotic
  • 이상(異常)하다 - strange; different (異) from the ordinary (常)
  • 동반(同伴)하다 - to accompany
  • 동생(同生) - a younger brother or sister
  • 동시(同時)에 - at the same time
  • 동의(同意)하다 - to agree with; to have the same (同) opinion (意)
  • 동포(同胞) - fellow countrymen; brethren
  • 동행(同行)하다 - to travel together; to go in company with
    (In a restaurant) 동행은 세 사람입니다. (We are a party of three.)

Sunday, April 13, 2008

What's the difference between 百花 and 白花?

Today I came across the expression, 百花滿發 (백화만발), which means "All kinds of flowers are in full bloom."

  • 百花 (백화) : all kinds of flowers (百 = 100; 花 = flower)
  • 滿發 (만발) : full bloom (滿 = full; 發 = bloom)
I am writing this because I did not know the meaning of 百花 until today. Of course, if I had seen the Chinese characters, I would have known its literal meaning of "100 flowers," but I would not have known that it is also used to mean "all kinds of flowers." If I had seen or heard the Korean 백화, my first thought would have been "white flower" (白花 - 백화).

It seems to be quite common to use 百 (100) with other characters to mean "all" or "various." Other examples are as follows:

  • 百計 (백계) : all [every] means; all resources
    百計(백계)을 다 쓰다. Try every means available.
    百計 無策 (백계 무책) : helplessness

  • 百憂 (백우) : all [a variety of] concerns
    The Chinese name for the antidepressant drug "prozac" seems to be 百憂解 (백우해), which literally means "relief from all concerns."
  • 百行 (백행) : all [a variety of] behavior or conduct
    百行之本也 (효百行之本也) - Filial piety is the foundation for all conduct.

If anyone has other good examples of using 百 to mean "all" or "a variety of," please post them in the "Comments" section.

Monday, April 07, 2008

山高於海 : "A mountain is higher than the sea"?

Today I came across the Chinese expression 山高於海 (산고어해), which I think is supposed to mean, "A mountain is higher than the sea."
  • 山 (산) - mountain
  • 高 (고) - high
  • 於 (어) - than
  • 海 (해) - sea
Does anyone know the origin of the expression and the reason for stating the obvious?